Indigenous elder Jack Charles farewelled in state funeral at Hamer Hall

Hundreds of people have gathered in Melbourne to farewell Indigenous elder and activist Jack Charles.

The 79-year-old Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Taungurung man’s state funeral was held in front of a packed Hamer Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Charles’ coffin was adorned with Indigenous designs and situated next to a traditional smoking fire on stage.

MC Ari Maza Long, whose grandfather started the country’s first Aboriginal theatre company alongside Mr Charles in 1971, said the service would be a representation of his life.

“Today’s service will be one of prestige, stories, colour, song and it wouldn’t be Uncle Jack without a little bit of cheekiness, too,” he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews, who Mr Charles called “Danny”, the crowd heard, was unable to attend due to the floods gripping the state.

Instead, Victoria’s Acting Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Colin Brooks, addressed the hall, and paid particular tribute to Uncle Jack’s work with Victoria’s incarcerated.

“He helped thousands of prisoners around our state,” Mr Brooks said.

“With openness and integrity, he shared his experience in life and showed others what their futures could hold.

“He knew he could be ‘an instrument for the change in others’, as he put it.”

The service was live streamed to prisons, remand centres and youth justice centres across Victoria.

The crowd was entertained by musician Kutcha Edwards, who sang a revised national anthem he wrote with late The Seekers singer Judith Durham.

ARIA winner Dan Sultan also performed a song on the piano.

Mr Charles died at the Royal Melbourne Hospital surrounded by friends and loved ones after suffering a stroke on September 13.

He was a Stolen Generations survivor and was sent to a mission in Shepparton before being moved to Box Hill Boys’ Home, where he was a victim of abuse in his early life.

This came before a cycle of incarceration which ended when he embarked on his trailblazing career in the arts.

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